NCF Nation: Names to remember spring 2009
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
You got to know some of them better than others this spring, but all of the following newcomers (in no particular order) established themselves as players' whose names you should remember come fall:
Virginia Tech TB Ryan Williams -- He quickly earned the spotlight with an 80-yard run on the first carry of his first spring scrimmage. In the spring game he had 10 carries for 85 yards, and two receptions for 66 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown on a middle screen.
Boston College TE Chris Pantale -- The 6-foot-5, 238-pound redshirt freshman from Wayne, N.J., had five catches for 45 yards - including a long of 17 yards in the spring game.
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins -- He made plays every day, and probably had the most sacks of any of the Noles this spring. He also was constantly in the backfield. He probably won't start but may help replace some of the sacks Everette Brown took with him.
Maryland LB Demetrius Hartsfield -- The redshirt freshman is expected to be the starting Will linebacker in 2009. He's quick, athletic, and big enough (230 pounds) to be effective in the run game and yet fast enough to cover receivers coming out of the backfield. He was in the two-deep the second half of last season and nearly played, but held his redshirt. He ended a solid spring with seven tackles for the White team in the spring game.
UNC TB Jamal Womble -- He's a powerful runner built low to the ground who earned the No. 3 spot behind Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. He was the leading rusher in the spring game with 50 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 12 yards. He proved this spring he could give the starters a breather.
UNC LB Zach Brown -- He reportedly ran a 4.26 with the strength and conditioning staff last week. He will be the starter at outside linebacker now that Quan Sturdivant has moved inside to middle.
Duke QB Sean Renfree -- He earned the confidence of coach David Cutcliffe and some playing time this fall with his strong performance this spring behind starter Thaddeus Lewis. Renfree threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Virginia WR Kris Burd and DB Rodney McLeod -- They're two players who showed the potential for breakout seasons. Burd saw action in all 12 games last year but caught only seven passes. With Kevin Ogletree gone, odds are that number increases.
McLeod was a true freshman last year and played almost exclusively in the nickel/dime packages from scrimmage. This year he's likely to be a starter at safety. He has great athleticism to complement h his football instincts.
Georgia Tech RB/SB Anthony Allen -- The junior transfer from Louisville is almost certain to figure into the crowded backfield this fall. He and Embry Peeples led all rushers in the spring game with 69 yards each.
Georgia Tech DL T.J. Barnes -- With three starters gone from last year's nine-win season, Barnes proved this spring he could become a dependable replacement. He had eight tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble in the spring game.
Clemson QB Kyle Parker -- The dual sport athlete juggled his baseball responsibilities while competing with Willy Korn for the starting job, and wowed Tigers fans with his performance in the spring game. He completed 13-21 passes for 171 yards and a score, and also ran for a score.
NC State QB Mike Glennon -- He showed significant improvement this season and took advantage of the fact that starter Russell Wilson dedicated half of his spring to baseball. Glennon was 28-46 for 338 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the spring game.
Wake Forest corner Kenny Okoro -- He's a long, tall athlete with the potential to replace Alphonso Smith. He made play after play this spring, tackles well and handles calls well. He'll continue to battle with Josh Bush this summer, but at the minimum will be used as a nickle back.
Miami WR Kendal Thompkins -- He's a smaller, speedy deep threat who caught two passes for 45 yards and has the potential to truly separate himself from the crowded group of receivers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
You already know the stars in the Big East. We've talked about some potential emerging stars. Here are some other players who might not have been household names before the spring, but you should remember who they are come the fall:
• Chris Neild, West Virginia: It's not like Neild was a complete unknown going into the spring. He started at nose guard last year and had a nice season. Still, the coaching staff heaped praise on his effort this spring and are predicting a big year for the junior.
• Ed Alcin, South Florida: He had only two catches last year but worked as a starting wide receiver most of the spring. And he's one of the fastest Bulls on the team.
• Aundre Wright, Pitt: Wright made his impact on special teams last year, averaging 21 yards per kickoff return. The speedster could see more time at wideout as a sophomore with T.J. Porter no longer around.
• George Johnson, Rutgers: Overshadowed at times by other big-name players on defense, Johnson had a solid year as a junior at end. Now as a senior, he looks ready to assert himself as one of the team leaders.
• Ryan Nassib, Syracuse: Barely known before spring practice, he was anointed the starting quarterback. Now he'll be the guy who'll try to keep Greg Paulus on the sidelines.
• Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes, UConn: These two did not get enough attention for their standout work at defensive tackle as freshmen. They could pose problems for opposing offenses for a long time to come.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's time to examine the names you need to know coming out of spring ball. Daryll Clark and Terrelle Pryor won't appear on this list because if you're a true Big Ten fan, you know who they are. But spring practice provided some clues about other potential stars throughout the league.
Memorize these names and you'll look good in front of your buddies this fall.
Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State -- It shouldn't be a surprise any more, but Penn State appears to have found yet another standout pass rusher in Crawford. The sophomore dazzled this spring and looks ready to take over Aaron Maybin's role on the edge.
Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin -- The son of former Badgers great Al Toon made waves this spring at a critical position of need for Wisconsin. Toon has all the tools to be a top-end Big Ten wide receiver this fall.
MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota -- Believe the hype. That was the theme coming out of Minneapolis this spring as Gray took most of the snaps and showcased his impressive skill set. He'll back up Adam Weber but should see the field a lot.
Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa -- McNutt might not win a starting job, but his talent won't go to waste. Iowa needs more playmakers to emerge at wide receiver, and McNutt, a converted quarterback, should enter the rotation after an impressive spring.
Stevie Brown, S/LB, Michigan -- I know, I know, Brown is a risky stock to buy because he's been on the All-Spring Team before. This year could be different, though, as Brown enters his final season and seemed to settle in nicely to a hybrid role in Greg Robinson's defense.
Brian Linthicum, TE, Michigan State -- The Spartans already had depth at tight end before Linthicum came along. But the Clemson transfer worked his way into the mix this spring and could be the No. 2 option behind Charlie Gantt.
Brian Rolle, LB, Ohio State -- The Buckeyes lose a lot of production at linebacker, but Rolle looks ready to fill the void. His speed stood out this spring, and he'll play a major role in the rotation.
Brandon Saine, RB, Ohio State -- The wait for big things from Saine could finally be over as the junior got through spring ball unscathed and looked very impressive. Saine has the dynamic qualities to change games and should complement Dan "Boom" Herron in the backfield this fall, if he stays healthy.
J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin -- Defensive coordinator Dave Doeren can't wait to get Watt on the field. A transfer from Central Michigan who began his college career as a tight end, Watt transformed his body and blossomed this spring. He can play either line spot for Wisconsin, which loses three multiyear starters up front.
Jarred Fayson, WR, Illinois -- The Florida transfer has yet to play a down in orange and blue, but he has already made an impression on his teammates, namely quarterback Juice Williams. Illinois is stacked at wide receiver, but Fayson likely earned a starting job with his play during the first chunk of spring ball.
As we head into the summer, it's a good time to get to know the names of some players that might not otherwise be on your radar. So I've compiled a list of 10 players that you should know in the fall.
Daryl Washington, LB, TCU -- Washington spent the past couple years in the shadow of Robert Henson and Jason Phillips, but emerged this spring and should be a key component for the Horned Frogs' defense.
Emmett Merchant, DB, Navy -- Merchant quit the team this spring because he wanted to transfer, but after talking with teammates, he was convinced to stay and should be a key component in the Midshipmen's secondary.
McKay Jacobson, WR, BYU -- Jacobson was a standout his freshman season, but spent the past two years on a mission. He figures to be the perfect replacement for Austin Collie.
Desmond Johnson, RB, Southern Miss -- With Damion Fletcher missing spring practice because of suspension, Johnson got a chance to impress coaches and earn some playing time in the fall.
Dwight Dasher, QB, Middle Tennessee -- Dasher is the full-time starter in an offense directed by new coordinator Tony Franklin. Dasher is a dual-threat that should play off the talent already on the roster.
Aiona Key, WR, Utah -- With all three of the Utes top receivers gone, Key is expected to fill the void quickly. He had a great spring and should be the go-to receiver in the fall.
DeRon Furr, DB, Memphis -- Furr, a transfer from Auburn, looked like a difference maker for the Tigers this spring. He was named MVP of the spring game and should help their struggling defense.
Brandon Bice, DE, Northern Illinois -- Bice will be called upon to make up where former defensive end Larry English left off. Bice was a third-team All-MAC player last season.
Jovonte Taylor, WR, Hawaii -- Taylor, a junior college transfer, played three games with the Warriors last season before suffering a season-ending viral infection. He also missed some of the offseason with knee surgery. But he's back and could be the top target in the Hawaii offense.
Braxton Amy, DB, UTEP -- Amy missed all of last season after tearing his ACL, but is back this season and should be a key component in a depleted UTEP defense. In 2007, Amy led the team with 9.3 tackles per game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 players who developed as names to remember during spring practice across the Big 12.
Colorado CB Jimmy Smith: Emerged as the Buffaloes' most talented one-on-one pass defender and the Buffaloes' key player in the secondary.
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller: Lanky freshman who might still have a chance to compete for playing time with starter Austen Arnaud. Tiller didn't hurt his chances by throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns and also adding a 65-yard touchdown run in the spring game.
Kansas WR Johnathan Wilson: Took advantage of the departure of top deep threat Dezmon Briscoe to emerge as the Jayhawks' prime deep threat when he was gone. Wilson led all receivers with 133 receiving yards and could be a capable featured receiver if Briscoe or Kerry Meier is injured.
Kansas State DE Brandon Harold: After struggling after being moved inside, Harold flourished with a big spring after moving back to defensive end.
Missouri RB De'Vion Moore: As Derrick Washington recovered from offseason knee surgery, Moore played as the Tigers' No. 1 tailback during most of the spring. Not only did he show tough between-the-tackles running ability but also developed into a strong receiving threat out of the backfield.
Nebraska LB Matthew May: The converted sophomore safety earned a role at weakside linebacker in both the Cornhuskers' nickel and base defenses.
Oklahoma LB Tom Wort: Became an immediate producer for the Sooners as a true freshman. He could be ticketed to immediate play on special teams as he provided immediate depth.
Texas DT Ben Alexander: The 310-pound senior claimed the starting job next to Lamarr Houston as the Longhorns look for a playmaker in the trenches to replace Roy Miller.
Texas Tech DE Brandon Sesay: After losing 21 pounds before spring practice, a slimmer Sesay notched two sacks in the spring game to showcase a strong finish as he challenges for a starting position left open when McKinner Dixon was suspended for academic reasons. .
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
It's always fun, though, to look at guys who didn't necessarily go into spring practice as household names, but have a chance to be household names come fall.
Here are 10 names to remember in the SEC (listed alphabetically):
Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: It was obvious watching him as a freshman that Adams had some special gifts. He showed this spring that he can also be a special player.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: It's not every day that a true freshman walks onto campus in the SEC and establishes himself as the starter at cornerback. Gilmore did it in a spring.
Winston Guy, S, Kentucky: The Wildcats' coaches think Guy can be a perfect complement to cornerback Trevard Lindley. Guy was one of Kentucky's most improved players in the spring.
Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama: There's a pretty fair linebacker on Alabama's roster by the name of Rolando McClain. Hightower is cut from that same mold.
Terence Jeffers, WR, Vanderbilt: After sitting out last year following his transfer from Connecticut, Jeffers was the Commodores' most dynamic offensive threat in the spring.
Pernell McPhee, DT, Mississippi State: Some junior college players get it right away, and some take a little longer to adjust. McPhee will anchor the Bulldogs' defensive line in 2009.
Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: Don't feel too sorry for the Tigers after losing the likes of Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois and Kirston Pittman. Nevis should be a force in the middle.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: The SEC has its share of accomplished cornerbacks, but look for Peterson to play his way into the upper echelon next season. He has star written all over him.
Deonte Thompson, WR, Florida: Somebody has to fill the "Percy Position." Thompson has the speed, burst and big-play capability to be that kind of performer for the Gators.
Chris Walker, DE, Tennessee: Walker was solid for the Vols last season. He was downright unblockable this past spring, which is bad news for those teams trying to block him in the fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Much of the talk during spring practices is about guys who are raising eyebrows, pushing for starting jobs or are on the cusp of breaking through.
Here are some of those guys.
Conan Amituanai, Arizona, OG: This 335-pound junior played well this spring and is expected to give the Wildcats flexibility up front as they fill some gaps. Most particularly, his emergence allows Mike Diaz to move out to left tackle, where he'd replace Eben Britton.
Clint Floyd, Arizona State, FS: This sophomore saw action in 2008 -- when he wasn't hurt -- and he's the guy who will replace the invaluable Troy Nolan.
Alex Lagemann, California, WR: Fellow receiver Marvin Jones got a lot of attention for his strong spring, but Lagemann also opened eyes. The sophomore could emerge if returning veterans don't rise to the challenge.
Eddie Pleasant, Oregon, LB: New coach Chip Kelly raved about his linebackers this spring, and Pleasant earned kudos for stepping in for the departed Jerome Boyd.
Suaesi Tuimaunei, Oregon State, S: The Beavers are rebuilding their secondary, with all four 2008 starters gone. While there are concerns at cornerback, Tuimaunei and sophomore Lance Mitchell are an upgrade athletically at the two safety spots, and some believe this position will be stronger next fall.
David DeCastro, Stanford, OG: This redshirt freshman earned good reviews and is almost certainly going to start on one of the guard spots.
Aaron Hester, UCLA, CB: Hester will need to show mental toughness because teams are going to target this redshirt freshman opposite Alterraun Verner.
Tyron Smith, USC, OT: The Trojans welcomed back all five 2008 starters on their offensive line. Smith wasn't one of them. The true sophomore is just too talented to sit.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: The Huskies need a receiver to emerge to complement D'Andre Goodwin. Kearse, a sophomore, could be the guy. Or maybe it will be fellow sophomore Devin Aguilar. Or both.
Skyler Stormo, TE, Washington State: The redshirt freshman had the best spring of any Cougar at the position and caught a couple of passes in the spring game. Showed promise blocking, too.